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So, I needed a cover for my eBook.

SmashWords specified that in order to be listed in their Premium catalog, and to be listed in iTunes, the cover had to be at least 1400 pixels wide.  Amazon recommended at least 2500 pixels tall.  I set the goal for my beginning image to be at least 1600 x 2560, to maintain a pleasing image that wasn’t too narrow.  But where to begin?

Well, I knew I couldn’t afford to commission a cover image from anyone I knew.  I had no money, and I wasn’t about to ask my friends to do it for free.

I could, however, find a photo online.  I knew that I needed to find a picture that was either copyright free or royalty free.  Or, I could simply ask.  No harm in asking, and after I finished converting the image into the way I thought my cover should look, it wouldn’t be the original photo anymore.  It would be derivative art; so all I really needed was the photographer’s permission.

If I could find the appropriate image to start with, I had access to several free image editing programs that I knew I could use to create what I wanted. (Yes, I did say “free.”  I told you I was cheap.)

These programs are:

  1. FotoSketcher (http://www.fotosketcher.com): To allow me to convert the original photograph to a sketch, a painting, a drawing, or any number of other artistic styles.  It would also allow me to add a “canvas overlay” effect at the end to really make the whole thing look like a real painting.
  2. PhotoScape (http://www.photoscape.org): For adding text, shadows, etc.
  3. GIMP (http://www.gimp.org): For everything else, including the final cover layout for the print book (but more on that later).

(I could probably have done all of the image manipulation in GIMP if I had taken the time to learn the program better, but I was already comfortable with FotoSketcher and PhotoScape, so things went quicker for me, even though I used several programs.  To keep the image quality from downgrading too badly, I saved each stage as either a PNG or TIFF file [depending on which format the program supported] until the final step, when I exported the completed cover as an uncompressed JPEG.)

I had the software, I just needed the image.  Like almost everyone else, my first thought was to try Google.  Google Images, however, doesn’t allow you to search by a specific size.  Limiting results to “Large” says that the width has to be at least 1776 pixels, which is good, but that the height can be as little as 810 pixels. It doesn’t allow you to specify the orientation of the picture; in this case, I absolutely wanted a portrait orientation.

Bing Image search allows you to limit the results more, including the orientation, size, and result type.  So I started there.

This part took the longest, just scrolling through the results, trying to find what I wanted.  I tried dozens of search terms in various combinations.  I even switched back to Google Images anyway, regardless of their search engines limitations. Finally tried searching Flickr as well, using their search engine to limit the results by Creative Commons license terms.  If I could find a picture where the photographer has already spelled out that derivative works could be made from it, then I was a step closer to finishing my book cover.

After all of that, I ended up with three possibilities.  I e-mailed the Websites where all three photos appeared, asking permission to use the photo and explaining what I wanted to do with it.

Finally, I got a response.  The response came from a different e-mail address than where I’d mailed the request.  Apparently the Website I’d e-mailed forwarded my request to the original photographer. (This was one of the reasons for the permissions issue I mentioned in my last blog entry.)

At any rate, the photographer gave me his blessing, and it was time to begin.

Next: Converting the original photo using FotoSketcher…

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